AFRICA'S PERSPECTIVE ON FEMALE CIRCUMCISION.
An Advocacy Docu-soap by Ladi Ladebo
BETA CAM/SP - Colour - Two Parts and a combined (68min 30secs) edition: 1997/1998
SESI, a 19-year old betrothed student nurse unconsciously creates a family crisis when she refuses to participate in the mandatory annual maiden initiation rites. After an initial shock and indignation, her mother, MAMA SESI, is talked into protecting her only daughter by defying BABA KIZITO'S request to circumcise the young lady. He is the fastidious and tradition bound prospective father in-law of SESI, and who has invested in her education since her father died.
In EPISODE TWO - THE SYMBOLIC RITES
The flagrant disregard for tradition is resisted. BABA KIZITO, backed by his home community is intent on bringing SESI and her mother to conform. The poor young nurse is forcibly abducted and taken back home for the maiden initiation rites.
With the personal assistance of SESI'S aunt, who is a member of a women's non-governmental organization for the protection of women's rights, MAMA SESI follows her daughter's abductors to their home town. Naturally, public discussion of female circumcision is taboo and not normal for women especially in rural areas. Traditionally, the town's people refuse to even talk about SESI or take sides with her mother whose assumed selfish action is deemed as cancerous to the survival of their community. But time is short. It is only a few days to the initiation of maidens in the town. SESI along with other maidens is already in the secluded camp, undergoing traditional indoctrination exercises. And the maiden initiation rites represent a key aspect of the OMIDIDUN Town Reunion Celebrations!
AN IDEAL TOOL FOR MASS SENSITIZATION IN AFRICA AND AMONG AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS IN DIASPORA
Female circumcision often referred to as genital female mutilation, is a traditional practice which dates back to ancient Times world wide, but which continues mostly in Africa. The Practice amounts to an interference with the natural appearance in the female external genitalia using a blade, knife, or any sharp instrument in order to bring about either a reduction in size of the clitoris or a complete removal of the vulva. The age at which a victim is subjected to this practice varies from culture to culture. In some tribes, the act is performed on the girl-child at about a week old to one month. In others, female circumcision is fixed for 13-21 years, that is, at puberty, while some are performed when a girl is between 10-12 years. There is also the extreme case of circumcision being performed only when a woman becomes pregnant.
The dominant reason given by both men and women in societies, which emphasize the practice of female circumcision, is the need to maintain tradition. In such societies, the concept of human dignity is culturally defined in terms of each person's faithful fulfillment of his or her obligation to the group. Essentially, the moral code of the group is bound up with such definition, which symbolizes the unification of the whole tribal organization. Thus female circumcision is viewed as playing a functional role of ensuring morality and sexual purity of the female gender. This leads to attendant fear that any deviation from tradition would naturally lead to societal disintegration. Thus any attempted deviation is resisted in the strongest terms and vehemently fought in order to keep tradition. It is, therefore, not surprising, that women, who are the victims of female circumcision, are also its strongest proponents. When a woman dares to question tradition, she courts strong, if not violent disapproval and probable ostracism from a society on which she naturally/socially depends for survival.
The subject ‘female circumcision' evokes strong opinions among Africans of wide geographical, racial, and religious distribution. The script of IN THE NAME OF TRADITION motion picture is largely influenced by field interviews carried out by the writer/director, to corroborate available written resource materials. The characters in this story, therefore, are based on real persons. And the story telling style of the drama is consciously aimed at putting up a mirror for African family audience to be able to do a re-think, which hopefully may lead to positive behavioral change. The sensitive dramatic approach:
* brings into focus some of the serious dangers to the girl-child; and numerous adverse immediate and long term obstetric and gynecological complications to the woman;
* promotes a cordial atmosphere necessary for discussing a potentially sensitive issue without rancour;
* provides some educative information in simple terms for the targeted groups including opinion leaders and policy makers;
* health education also seems to provide the least resistance to change. Information about clinical complications of circumcision is less threatening because it avoids value judgment on peoples' tradition and religious beliefs;
* last, but not the least, the fear of the transmission of HIV/AIDS among children circumcised with the same unhygienic/ unsterilized blades.
The production does not pretend to suggest the universal solution. It is, however, bound to stimulate better-focused discussions whereby all concerned can examine their feelings and prejudices and begin to assess objectively the health consequences of female genital mutilation. AND, maybe some less physically harmful symbolic rites could be ordained by the people themselves to replace female circumcision; as is being experimented in KENYA. It should be noted that even today in the WEST, where legislation exists, African women refugees and or immigrants stubbornly find ways to continue this harmful traditional practice. According to NGO sources, children are taken home on ‘family visits or holidays' to be circumcised before returning them to their new homes in Europe and America.
U.S. International and Film +Video Festival 1997;
1997 U.S. Black Programming Consortium
Pittsburgh Community Viewing (1997);
The British Medical Association (1998);
FESPACO-2001 Television Media Market
First reviewed in the London TIMES Higher Education Supplement - May 29, 1998.